Man involved in Colo. officer's death sentenced to 27 years in prison
"[Officer Julian Becerra's] tragic death is a stark reminder of the tangible impact habitual offenders have on this community," Lt. Sheyna Marshall testified
By Zachary Dupont
FOUNTAIN, Colo. — Two of the people involved in the incident that led to the death of Fountain police officer Julian Becerra earlier this year were in court Wednesday, with one of the two men being sentenced to 27 years in prison for his involvement.
Anthony Vallejos, 33, appeared in court in the morning for his sentencing hearing while Devon Bobian, 32, appeared in court in the afternoon for his preliminary hearing.
According to previous Gazette reporting, Bobian, Vallejos and Daniesha Pacheco were arrested in February after stealing a car and leading multiple law enforcement agencies on a chase throughout El Paso County. Eventually, the driver, alleged to be Bobian, lost control on a bridge, crashed, and all three of the defendants attempted to flee on foot. The affidavit for Bobian's arrest states that, while attempting to apprehend the trio, Becerra fell off the bridge and fell about 40 feet.
Earlier this year Vallejos accepted a plea agreement that saw him plead guilty to one count of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, a Class 3 felony, for his involvement in the incident. Bobian faces eight charges for his involvement, including a second-degree murder charge as the prosecution alleges it was Bobian's actions that led to the death of Becerra.
At Vallejos' sentencing hearing in the morning a small handful of people testified to the impact that the incident had, including Fountain Police Lt. Sheyna Marshall.
Marshall stated that she spoke on behalf of the entire Fountain Police Department during her victim impact statement, and spoke about how they lost their friend Becerra due to a habitual criminal being allowed to walk the streets.
"Julian's tragic death is a stark reminder of the tangible impact habitual offenders have on this community," Marshall said. "This highlights the destructive nature of habitual offenders in our community."
Marshall went on to describe Becerra as a "husband, father, co-worker and friend."
The court also heard from the victim of the attempted car-jacking, Mary Lee Palmer, who spoke about how the incident was, and still is, traumatizing.
"I thought I was going to be kidnapped," Palmer remarked.
Prior to Judge Chad Miller issuing his sentence for Vallejos, prosecutor Jeffery Harwood asked the court to take Vallejos' status as a habitual criminal into consideration.
Harwood stated that Vallejos has five previous felony convictions in the state dating back to before he was even an adult, and had just recently pleaded guilty to a unrelated menacing and eluding case in Pueblo County.
Jared Grabski, Vallejos' defense attorney, argued that his client's status as a habitual offender does not make him a bad person, but rather that Vallejos is one of many people who are stuck in a life they can not escape.
"We have people who are brought up in these communities and can't get out," Grabski said in reference to the comments made about Vallejos being a habitual offender.
Grabski added that Vallejos was not the individual with the gun throughout this incident, and that the court should take that into account during sentencing.
The final person to speak before Miller gave his sentence was Vallejos himself.
"I'd like to take accountability for what happened that night," Vallejos said. "I'm sorry to the family of the officer who passed away, I pray for him and his family."
Miller opted to issue Vallejos a sentence of 27 years in the Department of Corrections, a few years shorter than the maximum sentences Vallejos faced of 32 years. Miller acknowledged when issuing the sentence that Vallejos was "the least threatening" of the three individuals charged in the incident, but also acknowledged that Vallejos' criminal history was not good, and couldn't be ignored.
In the afternoon Miller presided over the preliminary hearing of Bobian, the man prosecutors allege caused the death of Becerra.
The prosecution called four law enforcement witnesses to testify at the hearing, the most important of which came from the hearing's final witness El Paso County detective Nickolas Brklich.
Brklich, who was the lead investigator on the case, reviewed screenshots of body-worn camera footage with prosecutor Dave Young that showed Bobian on the top of Becerra's car right before his death. Brklich insinuated that Bobian's choice to get on the car and "step towards" Becerra, which could allegedly be seen in the screenshots, is directly what led to Becerra falling off the bridge.
Testimony was also heard from Fountain Police Detective Isaac Ablia who was on the bridge the night of the incident. Ablia testified that after police were able to stop the trio on the bridge Vallejos and Pacheco immediately surrendered, while Bobian continued attempting to flee.
Ablia stated that Bobian tried to jump off the bridge himself prior to being captured while yelling "Let me go I want to die." It was only after Bobian had been detained that Ablia realized Becerra had fallen off the bridge during the incident.
Young stated during the prosecution's argument that the choice from Vallejos and Pacheco to surrender is what led to only Bobian being charged with second-degree murder.
Miller wasted no time in issuing his ruling that all eight charges faced by Bobian, including second-degree murder, would be bound over for trial. An arraignment date for Bobian was set for Jan. 10, 2024.
The third defendant involved in the incident, Pacheco, 28, did not appear in court Wednesday. In Pacheco's previous court appearance earlier this month she pleaded guilty to an amended count of aggravated robbery with a violent crime sentence enhancement.
Pacheco is due to be sentenced next year on Jan. 3.
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